Nobelist Chu on IPCC and emails, “this is a little wart on the overall amount of information”; questions “asymmetric” standard skeptics are held to.

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"Nobelist Chu on IPCC and emails, “this is a little wart on the overall amount of information”; questions “asymmetric” standard skeptics are held to."

On his optimism for a climate bill: “There are half a dozen to a dozen” GOP Senators in play.

First, the main findings of IPCC over the years, have they been seriously cast in doubt? No….

On balance if you look at all the things the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of experts convened by the United Nations to advise governments in responding to global warming] has been doing over the last number of years, they were trying very hard to put in all the peer-reviewed serious stuff. I’ve actually always felt that they were taking a somewhat conservative stand on many issues and for justifiable reasons….

They should be able to say that this is serious science and take a somewhat conservative view. If you look at the climate sceptics, I would have to say honestly, what standard are they being held to? It’s very asymmetric. They get to say anything they want. In the end, the core of science is deeply self checking.

That’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu in his new interview with the Financial Times (regis. req’d).

While the media has gone back to giving equal time to even the most discredited “skeptics,” the Nobel Prize winner in physics understands the difference between real scientists, who sometimes make small, unintentional mistakes but are self checking and self-correcting, and the anti-science disinformers (and their allies in the right-wing media) who just “get to say anything they want,” who intentionally mislead, but keep getting quoted over and over again by the media (see “N.Y. Times and Elisabeth Rosenthal Face Credibility Siege over Unbalanced Climate Coverage“).

Chu pushed back against FT’s repeated efforts to get him to say the IPCC crossed some imaginary line and it’s effort to label cap and trade now “dead”:

FT: What are the prospects, post-Copenhagen, for an energy bill. What do you hope to have in as opposed to out? Is cap and trade now dead?

SC:  … I personally think that this is a bipartisan, non-partisan issue. I think there are people on both sides of the aisle who recognize these things. I think what China has done in the last few years is also a little bit of a wake-up call. The fact that they’re now spending upscale $100bn a year on diversifying their energy, pushing energy efficiency, developing alternative forms of energy other than coal, closing their least efficient coal plants. There are 21 nuclear reactors being built in China today. They’re going to be the biggest installers of wind and solar domestically. They also see this as an opportunity. As you develop internal demand you nurture the industries that can also sell abroad. Their leadership recognises that if we continue on the course we’re on, it going to be devastating to China and the rest of the world. They also recognise that this is something which they missed the first industrial revolution, they missed in large part the computer and biotech revolutions. They don’t want to miss this one. That is again something that I think the United States and other countries should sit up and take notice of.

FT: But the political calculation is that you can actually get a serious energy bill and a healthcare reform bill?

SC: I don’t know about that but let me just say: One hopes, yes. Has the administration given up on looking for a comprehensive energy and climate bill? Absolutely not.

FT: Who do you see as the keenest Republican supporters?

SC: I think there are a number of moderate Republicans. Certainly Lindsey Graham [the senator from South Carolina] has taken a very brave stand. I think, without going into details, there are half a dozen to a dozen who feel the way I just spoke. They understand the international context. They certainly know about the climate threat and are very concerned about that. They see this as a way to future prosperity….

FT: If you look at opinion polls now, climate change barely registers. The fear of people advocating cap and trade now, is that because cap and trade looks politically near impossible, what you’ll go for is an energy bill that will have some subsidies for alternative energy and maybe some more nuclear stuff, and that that will be spending your alternative energy political capital for the next two or three years.

SC: I don’t know but I hope not because you can offer these short-term carrots but in the end it’s a comprehensive thing of long term and short term. You need the carrots. But you also need this long term. If I’m going to make a $3-8bn investment – a coal will cost $3bn – that’s going to be around for 60 years, just having a cap that we know by mid-century is going to be around here, will all of a sudden free up capital from banks. There’s money on the sidelines just sitting there, because they say we don’t know when it’s going to be, but in the meantime, since we don’t know when it’s going to be will the banks make loans? Probably not. So we’re in a crazy never-never land situation. Let’s recognise that we’re postponing an inevitability but because of that, we’re falling behind. China is racing ahead, and money is on the sidelines. Money on the sidelines means jobs aren’t being created. So again, in my heart of hearts, this is a non-partisan issue. So let’s get out of the never-never land. The people who are the most uneasy about it, let’s say to them, look we’re sympathetic, we understand that there’s unease. Let’s work through it.

The pundits love to say this has failed, that’s failed, because it’s easy….

The public polls go up and down on this, with Climategate and all these other things. But if you step back and dispassionately look at it, this is a little wart on the overall amount of information. It’s a little bump.

And the FT desperately tried to get Chu to abandon his deep understanding of climate science and the scientific literature (see Steven Chu’s full global warming interview: “This is a real economic disaster in the making for our children, for your children” and Chu: “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California).  The Nobelist wasn’t biting:

FT: On the climate threat, do you think there is legitimate concern now about the fact that some of the science, even if it’s not flawed, it’s been misrepresented, which has undermined the case in many people’s eyes.

First, the main findings of IPCC over the years, have they been seriously cast in doubt? No….  On balance if you look at all the things the IPCC has been doing over the last number of years, they were trying very hard to put in all the peer-reviewed serious stuff. I’ve actually always felt that they were taking a somewhat conservative stand on many issues and for justifiable reasons….

FT: But as a distinguished scientist yourself, don’t you think that the IPCC crossed the line between scientific research and advocacy?

SC: I don’t think so. My impression about watching them working is that it is one of the things where they have been held up to a very high standard.

FT: In the last three months.

SC: No, since the beginning. Since report number one. Their reports get reviewed. Lots of people are asked to take shots at this in a very serious way that I think is all right because what they’re saying is so important. It has economic consequences worldwide. They should be able to say that this is serious science and take a somewhat conservative view. If you look at the climate sceptics, I would have to say honestly, what standard are they being held to? It’s very asymmetric. They get to say anything they want. In the end, the core of science is deeply self checking.

The core of the disinformers, and their media stenographers, is deeply self-defeating, as it propels us faster and faster towards Hell and High Water and a ruined climate.

h/t The Hill

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14 Responses to Nobelist Chu on IPCC and emails, “this is a little wart on the overall amount of information”; questions “asymmetric” standard skeptics are held to.

  1. mike roddy says:

    It’s nice to hear Chu point out something that the media has completely missed: The deniers will mine years’ worth of scientists’ email conversations and data citations in an attempt to find any little error or anomaly. If they manage to find one, they scream “hoax!”

    Then, when statements like “The hockey stick is broken” (McIntyre) or
    “US weather stations thermometers are inaccurate” (Watts) are proved to be completely bogus, the media doesn’t miss a beat. Major newspapers continue to feature McIntyre, Monckton, and Watts on Fox News and in sober newspaper interviews. Apparently, it’s OK for these guys to fabricate data.

    In the case of FT or Fox, financial ties are the obvious cause, but it’s not just them. The supposed charge of telling the truth in all of mainstream media has devolved into something else, and it’s about time somebody called them on it.

    This blog is one of the few that consistently points this out. I wish a lot more people would read it, and hold our sorry mainstream reporters and editors to a minimum professional standard. If they still balk, it’s time for general readers to move on to alternative media.

  2. Dennis says:

    Chu’s comments are welcome. If one reads and puts together the deniers’ opinion pieces, websites, non-peer reviewed “research” and other drivel they produce these days, it adds up to extremely petty nitpicking. This group has complained about “the science not being settled” ad nauseum. Yet, with the IPCC report publicly available for over two years, all they can uncover in over 2,800 pages of fully referenced publications are a few trivial errors which have no bearing on the underlying scientific facts? They’ve taken to putting a gate suffix to every topic that they raise, to the point of absurdity.

    Still, I think scientists like Chu need to speak with more force and more authority and publicly scold these idiots for the nonsense they are spreading. I’d like to see a press conference where the best scientific minds (who are also excellent public speakers) publicly call out certain public figures who are spreading these lies.

  3. toby says:

    More power to Steven Chu … At least one public figure is standing up to be counted.

    A few more Steven Chus & we might generate more effective push back against the dark side.

  4. Dave E says:

    Great to read this interview–I agree with Mike Roddy (#1) completely.

  5. MarkB says:

    “If you look at the climate sceptics, I would have to say honestly, what standard are they being held to? It’s very asymmetric. They get to say anything they want. In the end, the core of science is deeply self checking.”

    There’s a reason why “skeptics” hate peer review. Their claims, ranging from deeply flawed arguments to outright lies and slander, are shot down quickly when viewed through the eyes of a qualified and/or objective observer.

    Dr. Chu is the man. It’s nice to have an actual distinguished scientist in his position, rather than the standard career politician.

  6. Peter Sergienko says:

    If you want to see how this is playing out in the legal process, with the full authority of the State of Texas behind the arguments, read Texas’s petition to the EPA seeking a rehearing of EPA’s endangerment finding. The brief seeks to undercut the scientific basis for the finding based almost entirely on the contents of the stolen emails and the recent attacks on the IPCC. I can’t find a free link at the moment. The web address below links to the brief through Environment and Energy’s Greenwire publication so it is probably available only to subscribers.

    http://www.eenews.net/features/documents/2010/02/16/document_gw_01.pdf

  7. Fred Teal says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Chu. He is refusing to be an enabler. There is a popular reality TV show called “Intervention” on A&E. An addict is shown committing one self destructive act after the other. The addiction and the looming disaster are all denied. Then friends, family and a skilled therapist subject them to an intervention. The aim is to break the denial and get the addict started down the road to recovery.

    Several factors are a must for ending denial:
    • The addict must feel that loved ones care about him.
    • Loved ones must practice tough, confrontational love.
    • All enabling must stop.

    Denial, enabling and projection are powerful mechanisms. Projection and denial are all based on the need of the addict to maintain self respect in the face of contrary facts. Enabling is seen by the enabler as an expression of love and compassion helping the addict avoid the painful act of confronting reality.

    Deniers are amazingly stubborn and intransigent. They assail scientific findings looking for every possible flaw. They distort the conclusions. They are almost never actual climatologists. They scour stolen emails for the slightest signs of conspiracy. When they find even the smallest indication, they make mountains out of mole hills. They have no mercy when dealing with opponents. Their attacks are so vicious that some gentle souls are hounded to the brink of suicide. It is profoundly distressing. All the more so when you realize that all of us are in the ship together and the deniers are telling everyone that there is really nothing below the tip of the iceberg.

    Every time we present the facts of warming simply, we confront denial, just as Stephen Chu has done. We enable when we stand by silently and let deniers spout nonsense. It is an issue of proper messaging and framing combined with scientific facts. The message must be repeated again and again, constantly, consistently.

    Responding to outrageous attacks with calmness and respect establishes credibility. The undecided will sense intuitively that this response stems from wisdom and compassion, not deception or misrepresentation. Presenting a realistic description of the consequences of inaction and refusing to enable by sugar coating or understating has the best chance of success.

    We will never reach our goals if we focus only on greenhouse gas emissions as the sole cause of our problems. Our message must acknowledge that overpopulation and resource depletion are significant issues which must be addressed as well. We need to look into the abyss of probable long term consequences before we can respond to the danger realistically. Dwindling fresh water supplies, desertification, declining agriculture/food shortages, rising sea levels and climate refugees are spawning conflict which is threatening our highly complex civilization. Many states are beginning to fail. Pirates from Somalia and drug gangs in Mexico are just the beginning. We must frame the crisis as a “Climate Pearl Harbor” requiring an immediate and massive response. Anything less won’t work to dispel denial and set us on the road to recovery.

  8. Mark A. York says:

    Let’s hear it for Dr. Chu! Finally someone stood up to the smear machine. Now if we could get it on the front page of the NYT. What do you want to bet that Taranto at the Mock Street Journal didn’t highlight this exchange?

  9. prokaryote says:

    “The Story of Cap and Trade”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA6FSy6EKrM

    Oil Industry Ready to Work on Global Warming
    Under the cap-and-trade formula, which has considerable momentum in Washington, the government would set a ceiling on how much carbon dioxide could be emitted into the atmosphere each year. It would then give or sell permits that companies would be allowed to trade to meet their limit. Emitting carbon dioxide at present involves no penalties in the United States, meaning that companies have little incentive to curb their pollution.

    Mr. Dolan, a senior vice president at Exxon, said that a carbon tax would be simpler and less subject to manipulation than a trading system. “A carbon tax reduces policy risks for businesses and investors in a way that cap-and-trade schemes do not,” Mr. Dolan said during his address at the industry conference, organized by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm.

    “In addition,” he said, “by reducing other taxes — such as income or excise taxes — we can make a carbon tax revenue-neutral and offset the impact of higher taxes on the economy.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/science/earth/12oil.html

  10. xbox live says:

    Each time you present the facts of global warming simply faced with the denial, like Stephen Chu has done. We enable when we are silent and let those who deny the peak direction. It is a question of the correct message development and combined with scientific facts. The message must be repeated again and again, constantly, consistently.

  11. Leif says:

    Fred Teal, #7: Good points all.

    Lately I have been thinking of the roll of the Military going forward. Because of it’s immense budget and secure funding, you know that they will have a thing or two to say about “acceptable solutions.” First, we are talking about a war time budget for mitigation, perhaps rationing, surely massive training and logistics, R & D, equipment operators and more. Who better than the military to undertake such a mission. They know how to make stuff happen… However at least “that” branch of the military must be dedicated to the well-being of Humanity and funded with at least a third of the military budget. Much of the training costs could be shared however I would think. Most importantly however is that it may take the Military to get the Tin-Hats to not throw sand in the gears. Even with the military there will remain a “Glenn Beck Fringe” that will remain but by then there numbers should be minimal. (I believe that in some circles those are called “terrorists”)

  12. Skeet says:

    Dennis @ 2

    “If one reads and puts together the deniers’ opinion pieces, websites, non-peer reviewed “research” and other drivel they produce these days, it adds up to extremely petty nitpicking.”

    I would say that it is ‘extremely petty and vicious nitpicking.’

  13. klem says:

    This is a great posting. Too bad the denialists are winning the war.

    Oh by the way, isn’t Chu the guy who just last year said we all need to paint our roofs white? Get out the paint ladies.

    [JR: No. Reflective (not necessarily white) paint does save energy, reducing pollution and warming.]